Happy New Year!!!!

by Katy on January 1, 2016 · 10 comments

Happy New Year one and all, near and far to all the entire Non-Consumer Advocate community!

May 2016 bring peace. love and financial security into your world.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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Five Frugal Things

by Katy on December 31, 2015 · 48 comments

Aldo vs. Aldi

  1. My 17-year-old son wanted to go downtown yesterday to spend his Christmas bonus on a new pair of Nikes. (He doesn’t do the buy-nothing-new Compact, and is free to spend his money as he wishes, although he certainly receives much input from his dear mother. Lucky guy.) We took the city bus, which was free with my work pass and his school pass. Although we window shopped a tiny bit, nothing was bought other than the shoes. He independently refused a bag and was very deliberate with his purchase. While downtown, I texted my friend Kristen from The Frugal Girl about Aldi, her favorite grocery store.
  2. This same son got very sick from eating at Chipotle back in October, and was sent six free burrito cards as an apology from the company. I knew they were about to expire, so we stopped by the closest location and had them assemble four enormous burritos as our dinner. We won’t be able to use the other two burrito cards before they expire tonight, so I e-mailed our contact at corporate to have them send new ones. (They’d said to do this if they expired before we could use them.) So far, no one’s been sick, so . . . yay!
  3. I’m assembling all our financial information today so I can update our FAFSA financial aid application at the stroke of midnight. I’m crossing my fingers that having two kids in college will award us even the tiniest amount of non-loan financial aid!
  4. I poured a jar of navy beans into the crock pot so I can serve a batch of The Prudent Homemaker’s white bean-rosemary soup for tonight’s dinner. I’m hoping to avoid any grocery shopping today as we went a hundred dollars over our $400 grocery budget for the month. Tomorrow is a new start!
  5. I went spelunking into my mother’s basement the other night looking for a ream of paper. I didn’t find any, (it turns out she’d donated it to a teacher friend) but I did score two enormous Mason jars that fit the large mouth lid. I brought them home and have added them to my arsenal of kitchen storage.

Now your turn. What frugal things have you been up to?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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Note: This post first appeared at ClarkHoward.com.

Do you struggle with the feeling that you’ll never have enough hours in your day nor dollars in the bank? You’re not alone.
Enter The Compact, a worldwide buy-nothing-new movement where participants choose to abstain from buying almost anything new for one year periods. (Everyone has a few personal exceptions. Me? I allow new underwear, socks and personal care items.)
Thousands of people have joined this voluntary simplicity group, yet do so for entirely different reasons. For many, the appeal is financial, while for others it’s for environmental or humanitarian reasons.
I’ve been doing The Compact since 2007, and although it would sound more impressive to say it was for some lofty reason, my decision was straight up financial. But I quickly began to notice an odd change in my life, which was that my busy, busy life suddenly gained some much needed breathing room. This made no sense, as shouldn’t having to do the legwork of sourcing used instead of new take more time not less?
This surprising side effect continued and proved to be no anomaly. Here’s what I learned:

When you spend too much money, you have to work the hours to earn that money

Buying used and spending less money allows you to earn a smaller income. This may seem obvious, but somehow it isn’t. It’s easy to fall into the trap of night after night of pricey takeout meals, or to indulge ourselves with expensive treats as a reward for hard work. These spending rationalizations can undo the benefit of a good salary.

Less money spent = fewer hours required at work.

Recreational shopping is almost eliminated

By choosing to forgo new purchases, you’ll no longer waste your weekend hours scoping out bargains at the mall or on cybershopping.

Less time shopping = more hours available for activities that enhance your life.

Less stuff entering your home means fewer hours spent on housekeeping

If you have a tendency to pick up cool but unnecessary items or find yourself unable to resist a bargain, chances are your home has a clutter issue. All that stuff that passes your threshold needs to stored, organized and cleaned. By choosing to only buy used, less stuff comes into your house and your time at home will suddenly open up.

Less stuff in your house = fewer hours spent cleaning.

Conclusion

When you choose to stop buying new, you free up both your money and energy for the things that really matter. Draw that line in the sand, and you won’t be as vulnerable to Madison Avenue, as all their new stuff is off limits anyway. Annie Leonard writes about a “work-watch-spend treadmill” in The Story of Stuff, and perhaps it’s time to step off that treadmill. Who knows, you might even get to stand still for a moment or two.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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The following is a reprint of  previously published post. Enjoy!

It was sure a lot more fun and satisfying to fix up this old mirror than it would have been to buy one online. And yes, the antique dresser was a curbside find.

  • Dinner out without ever having to worry about the bill.
  • This season’s hip new clothing without the slightest inclination to look at the price tag.
  • turnkey house where your only project is where to place your gorgeous furniture?

Sounds great, right?

Nope.

As dreamlike as it sounds to have access to everything you want at your fingertips, I feel like the reality of a limited budget sparks creativity and imagination that would otherwise lay dormant. 

Because the cost of taking four adults out for dinner, (Yup, teenage boys eat as much, if not much, much more than an adult) is staggering, so I end up having to cook at home. However, this doesn’t translate into frozen Costco lasagnas, as I like to prepare what I actually enjoy eating.

Take last night as an example. I’ve been craving Vietnamese salad rolls all week, (probably due to the fact that I spent an afternoon cleaning one of my mother’s guest cottages, and basking in the aromas of the divine Jade Teahouse and Patisserie, the *best* restaurant, Vietnamese or otherwise in town.) So instead of wallowing in the sentiment of “Poor me,” I found a recipe online and whipped up a huge batch of salad rolls for the family. And no, they were not as pretty as Jade’s, but for the first time in my life I got to gorge on a delicacy, which before had always been an appetizer.

Such a luxury, and frankly, pretty damned satisfying. And now, I have a new skill! Some might even go so far as to call it self improvement. 

The harsh reality of not being able to buy the things you want, whether it’s a certain type of food, a decor item or the services of a professional can force you into learning new skills. And then, if your financial situation takes a nosedive, you already know how to fend for yourself. But you know . . . in style.

It’s a good thing that I wasn’t born an heiress. What a travesty that would have been. 😉

Agree, disagree? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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Five Frugal Things

by Katy on December 28, 2015 · 57 comments

Katy Wolk-Stanley Clark Howard

  1. I worked yesterday and packed up a couple squares of leftover frittata from our Christmas brunch. Yummy and frugal, but the kids weren’t into it, so there was a fair amount available as leftovers. So yes, I took one for the team.
  2. My $100 Verizon gift card didn’t arrive before Christmas, which was a problem since I’d planned to use it to buy new earbuds for the boys. However, I called up the Verizon store and asked I could simply apply the $100 toward my cell phone service. The answer was “yes,” so I went ahead and bought the earbuds at Fred Meyer for $30 apiece; which was $10 less than I’d have spent at the Verizon store! (I won the $100 gift card on a Verizon auction using my otherwise useless Smart Rewards points.)
  3. I was able to thrift for the vast majority of my Christmas gifts. This included new-with-tags socks, a suitcase for my son, a cell phone case, tins for cookies, a flowerpot and an American Girl necklace kit. New, I bought the aforementioned earbuds, art supplies and art supply gift certificates, (from the store where my son works) a Rehab Addict Nicole Curtis T-shirt for my mother, Gap.com gift cards, Goodwill gift cards and many delicious edibles. In all I spent $276.99, which included three birthdays. However, $60 was the earbuds which I’m counting as free since I paid nothing for the $100 Verizon gift card.
  4. I relisted my Craigslist posts, and will list a brand new Uggs care kit that someone left behind at one of my mother’s guest cottages. (Don’t worry, my mom e-mailed previous tenants and no one owned up to leaving it there.)
  5. I submitted another Clark Howard article and am starting a draft on another one. I’m cleaning a guest cottage tomorrow and I worked a 12-hour shift yesterday. Plus, January is a three paycheck month for me, which means a five paycheck month between the two of us. Money for college tuition, and whatever else life throws our way!

Now your turn. What frugal things have you been up to?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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Are You Ready to Stop Buying New in 2016?

by Katy on December 27, 2015 · 51 comments

December is almost over, which means the end of holiday shopping, holiday decorating and holiday cooking. It also means that it’s time to work on your New Year’s resolutions. Because if you wait until December 31st to figure out your 2016 goals, it might end up being nothing less than a depressingly self-serving to-do list:

  • Lose weight
  • Learn French
  • Exercise more
  • Stop watching Keeping Up With The Kardashians.

But I have a new year’s resolution for you to ponder:

Buy nothing new for a year. It’s called The Compact, and it’s a world-wide movement where people make a one year commitment to stop buying new stuff. There are no official rules, and everyone puts their own twists and exceptions in their Compact. (For example, I allow purchases of new underwear,socks and harmonicas .) Because I’ve been participating in The Compact since 2007, my rules have relaxed and I do buy a few new things every now and then, but for the most part it’s a rarity.

Everyone brings their own personal motivation to the project, and for some the choice to avoid new stuff is purely environmental, while for others it’s a financial decision. Doesn’t matter, as it’s your decision, and the result is the same. Over manufacture of unnecessary and overly packaged stuff is a huge global issue, and The Compact is a great way to take a personal stand.

So, what do you say . . . can I talk you into trying The Compact?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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Merry Christmas!

by Katy on December 24, 2015 · 11 comments

2009-Xmas1

Whatever your family traditions happen to be, may your next few days be filled with friends, family, peace and unconditional love. Plus, food. Lots and lots of delicious food!

Also, no guilt trips. Eff that.

Merry Christmas!

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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Five Frugal Things

by Katy on December 23, 2015 · 43 comments

  1. I was sent $85 in Outback Steakhouse gift cards as a Christmas gift from the fine folks at Clark Howard. My birthday is next week, so I’ll use them as part of my Birthday Day of Adventures. Nice to be part of their family. Thank you, Clark!
  2. I loaned a nice card table to a neighbor to use while she has house guests, and she gifted me a plate of assorted homemade cookies as a thank you. I’m not ashamed to admit that my son and I demolished them last night after I came home from work.
  3. I worked the past two days and brought leftover split pea soup with ham both days. I drank the free crappy coffee and ate some of the hospital saltines with my lunches.
  4. I’ve hardly bought any Christmas gifts, but will run a few errands today for consumable gifts and ingredients for consumables.
  5. I’ve been on the edge of sick ever since I came back from New York, and have been using handkerchiefs and cloth napkins instead of single use tissues. I watched the Netflix episode of Morgan Spurlock’s Where Does Your Garbage Go? episode from Inside Man, which featured a look at Zero Waste Home’s Beá Johnson. I’m freshly inspired to create as little garbage as possible.

Now your turn. What frugal things have you been up to?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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Five Frugal Things

by Katy on December 20, 2015 · 70 comments

Table Talk pie

  1. I found myself wandering aimlessly around Safeway this afternoon, when I suddenly remembered that I was packing a “free turkey or ham” coupon from work. (My Christmas bonus.) I bought an enormous spiral cut ham, which I presented as tonight’s dinner and will serve for multiple meals. Of course, I immediately put the bone into the crock pot with some split peas. Soup!
  2. I went to the grocery store near my sister’s house before hitting Laguardia airport. I bought three bagels with cream cheese, three bananas and an adorable sweet potato pie. Thus fortified, I was able to avoid paying for airplane or airport food, despite missing my connecting flight in Chicago which gained me an unexpected four hour layover.
  3. I made sure to arrange for my older son to renew his lifeguarding license over winter break so he can work next summer. Last year this important detail got missed and he had to get licensed from scratch. This process is the work of a few hours versus a four (five?) day process. Not only does the renewal cost less, but the peace of mind is priceless.
  4. I was able to score a wonderful big Christmas tree for a mere $22. It’s from an otherwise out of the way location that’s close my the house of my son’s best friend. I was picking my son up anyway, so there was no extra driving involved. I popped that bad boy into the back of my Prius and drove sloooowly home.
  5. I figured out that I could spend my thousands of worthless Verizon Points to bid on a gift card through their auctions. The points are otherwise essentially useless, (think Groupon-style discounts on overpriced stuff) so I had no qualms about spending them all in one fell swoop. I was able to win an auction for a $100 Verizon gift card, which I’ll use to buy new earphones for the boys. Hooray for a decent Christmas present without spending any money. Well . . . except for the thousands of dollars we’ve spent on our cell phone service, but I’m going to ignore that aspect of the transaction for now. :-(

Now your turn. What frugal things have you been up to? 

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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The Gift of Silence From a “Hemulen”

by Katy on December 17, 2015 · 12 comments

The following is a reprint of a previously published post. Enjoy!

Hemulen

In today’s interconnected digital world it can near to impossible to allow oneself the gift of silence. There’s always a tempting e-mail to check, phone call to return or Facebook to update.

Sometimes when my kids are at school and my husband’s at work I am overwhelmed by the silence in my house. And as much as I appreciate the calm, it can be hard to concentrate with the vast nothingness of a quiet home. (I suppose this is part of why I’m able to be so productive while listening to audio books.)

I was reading a chapter of Tove Jansson’s Tales From Moominvalley aloud to my younger son at bedtime tonight, and this passage jumped out at me:

“The Hemulen threw himself headlong into the green, friendly silence, he gambolled in it, he wallowed in it, and he felt younger than he ever had before.”

And suddenly I craved nothing but that vast nothingness. I wanted to “gambol in the green friendly silence.” I wanted throw myself into silence. Me.

It’s easy to become addicted to constant stimulation and input, to never have that cushion of quiet to let ideas swirl and take form. I have a tendency to come up with great ideas while showering, and I know it’s because there’s nothing to do except think. Nothing to look at, nothing to listen to, no tasks to perform.

Even activities that used to serve as space cushions of silence no longer perform as such. Drivers chat with friends, pedestrians listen to their iPods and even the brief wait in line at the store becomes an opportunity for one more quick phone call.

My mother grew up the fourth child in a family of seven, and she can’t concentrate if it’s too quiet.  She’s a writer, and when she needs to buckle down and finish a chapter, she heads out to a restaurant. I have many childhood memories of sitting with her at the Newberry’s snack bar, while she put the finishing touches on an article. I, on the other hand, can’t write if there’s chaos around me. (Which is why I do almost all my writing after 11:00 P.M.)

I want to gambol in the “green, friendly silence.”

Do you find that the cacophony of the external world is making silence the exception rather than the norm? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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